Mission work was on Jesus’ mind as He bid farewell to His disciples. Mission work was the apostle Paul’s overwhelming passion and the only thing that kept him conflicted about the prospect of going to heaven as soon as possible. Mission work built the church as we know it today and helped Christianity survive the persecution of the Roman Empire.
The thread of mission work runs throughout Scripture. You can find prominent examples of it in the following passages.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).
Mission work, at its core, is an opportunity. Specifically, it’s an opportunity for believers to play key roles in God’s plan. Mission work is a front-row seat to God’s life-changing power. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah certainly recognized the potential in being sent by God. His excited reply reveals his eagerness.
Isaiah also likely recognized the challenges and hardships of mission work. He knew that his message—that is, the message God gave him to deliver—would not be popular. He also likely knew of the human tendency to want to “kill the messenger.” Yet Isaiah was not deterred, because the one thing he understood better than anything else is that the blessings of serving God through mission work far outweigh the drawbacks.
The voice of the Lord calls to His people in a similar way today. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of opportunities to serve. Sometimes those opportunities are local; sometimes they’re anything but. Either way, He asks, on behalf of the heavenly Father, “Whom shall I send?” Those of us who have the courage, faith, and sense of adventure to say, “Here am I! Send me!” will discover what it means to be used by God in a powerful way.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15–16).
Jesus lays out for His followers the dire situation facing the unsaved. Their eternal lives hang in the balance. Believers who engage in mission work, then, may be compared to spiritual “first responders.” We run toward the crisis when others turn away or try to ignore it. We may not always be comfortable in the situations we face, but we refuse to back away from them.
A willingness to serve is the only thing the Lord requires of us. He doesn’t expect us to be experts in mission work, Christian ministry, or theology. The Holy Spirit will help us diagnose people’s spiritual needs so that we can figure out the best way to respond to them. If we “go into all the world”—or even into just our corner of it—He will go with us.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
The apostle Paul underscores the dilemma that many lost people face. They are unable to make an informed decision about Jesus because they know so little about Him. Many are unfamiliar with Scripture. What they do know about Jesus comes from second-hand sources, which are often tainted by cynicism, self-interest, and misinformation. Some people, who have been burned by Christian hypocrisy (or worse), put up defense mechanisms to protect themselves from further harm.
Still, the need remains. To paraphrase Paul’s second question, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have heard misleading things?” That brings us to his third question. The word that tends to trip us up there is “preacher.” Few of us think of ourselves as preachers. Yet, from the context of the verse, it’s clear that Paul is simply referring to someone who is willing to talk to others about Jesus.
Our “talk” can take many different forms. The manner in which we live—the priorities we set, the way we treat others, the joy we express, the fellowship we enjoy with other believers, the concern we demonstrate for people in need—can speak volumes about the Lord we serve. And when people grow curious enough to question us about the way we live, we have the opportunity to follow the apostle Peter’s lead and “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s how we can be involved in mission work anytime and anywhere.